Climate Change, Poverty and Pollution: It’s All the Same Fight

CoLab Radio
By Alvaro Sanchez

Have you ever felt desperate? Today, I notice desperation in the faces of my neighbors in Oakland, California. Our world feels and looks unhealthy. Our communities carry a heavy burden and I share in their pain.

Low-income communities are hit first and worst by climate change, and now in the U.S. those same communities are also getting hit even worse by income inequality, poor access to healthcare, poor education, state sanctioned violence, housing insecurity, discrimination and hate. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years working on climate change policy, it’s that the fight against climate change is directly connected to the battle to end these other hardships.

As we have shown in California, we can have a clean energy future that leads with equity and invests in improving the living conditions of the most impacted communities.  We are building that future now.California’s climate policies clean the air and invest in projects that will save families money, improve health outcomes, create economic opportunity, promote community development, and educate thousands about the benefits of renewable energy.  California is leading the fight against pollution and poverty, and I want everyone around the U.S. to know about it.

One story that inspires me, is that of Jesus (Jesse) Magallanes, a young man I met on a solar installation project in Central California.

Born in Los Angeles, Jesse has lived in Visalia, a small town in California’s mainly agricultural Central Valley, since age 17, working in construction most of that time. But with the construction industry taking a big hit after the economic downturn, Jesse did odd jobs to get by – at packinghouses, driving a forklift, whatever he could get. The jobs were always part-time, at or near minimum wage, and he often had to juggle four or five small jobs at a time to barely make ends meet.

Now things are different for Jesse, because of smart California policies that charge polluters, put that money to work promoting clean energy, and guarantee that at least one quarter of those funds must go to projects benefitting disadvantaged communities. Jesse now has a new career as a solar installation crew leader, and thousands of low-income families have clean, affordable solar power.

Thanks to climate investments generated by AB 32, SB 535, and the Charge Ahead initiative (SB 1275), California is putting clean, electric vehicles in the hands of low-income families and generating millions in revenue for tree lined streets, efficient public transit, bike lanes, and housing near transit. That means reduced carbon emissions, cleaner air and more attractive, livable neighborhoods.

I could go on much longer than I have space to do here, but I urge you to learn more. The Greenlining Institute in partnership with the SB 535 Coalition has put together a website,, that tells the story of California climate policies and how they bring opportunity and investment into neighborhoods that too often were used as toxic dumping grounds. This is the future, and we invite you to join us.

OPED: Some Assurances for America’s Anxious Majority

Tribune News Service
By Orson Aguilar

If the Republican presidential primary campaign has done anything, it’s confirmed that an awful lot of white Americans feel threatened by the increasing visibility and influence of people of color in our society.

It’s gotten so bad that Politico, that bastion of conventional Washington Beltway wisdom, recently published a column arguing that “white America, fast becoming a minority, needs to hear reassurances.”

In that spirit, I offer this note of reassurance to my white neighbors:

You are still the most privileged group in U.S. society. While too much in our economic system is rigged in favor of the wealthy, whites as a group still benefit from an enormous residue of perks and privileges built up over the years.

Do you have any savings? Or assets (like a home) you could sell if times got tough? Most white Americans do, and most black and Latino Americans have little or none. That’s not accidental; it stems from deliberate policies.

For decades, the Federal Housing Administration insisted on redlining neighborhoods, refusing to approve mortgages for people of color moving into white areas. Racial minorities who could manage to buy a home were relegated to neglected neighborhoods with terrible government services, underfunded schools and stagnant property values.

The original Social Security Act specifically excluded two occupations — agricultural workers and domestic servants — most associated with African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans. Labor unions helped build the American middle class in the 20th century, but the 1935 Wagner Act let unions bar non-whites, and many did — denying them access to better paid jobs, health care and pensions.

Yes, most of those overtly racist policies are gone now, but their effects linger.

You see, most private wealth in the United States is inherited, with roughly 80 percent of a family’s assets coming from transfers from prior generations. After a parent dies, whites are about five times more likely than people of color to receive an inheritance — and on average that inheritance is nearly three times the size of inheritances received by people of color.

Meanwhile, minority communities continue to suffer from worse air pollution and other environmental problems thanks to getting stuck with a disproportionate share of polluting facilities like freeways and oil refineries. That further depresses property values and leads to higher rates of illness. Communities of color still often have underfunded, dilapidated schools.

Law enforcement remains wildly unequal, leading to disproportionate arrest rates — totally unrelated to the rates at which different groups actually commit crimes — that can cripple a person’s job prospects for life.

None of this means that poor and working class whites don’t face serious challenges. They do. But the root problem isn’t people of color making small gains; it’s a changing economy that can outsource or automate jobs.

Our president recently said, “America has been through big changes before. … Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future.” But we overcame those fears and emerged stronger as a nation. We must do so again.

The State of Our Fragmented Union

The Huffington Post
By Orson Aguilar

This evening, President Obama will give his final State of the Union address. These addresses often have an optimistic spin, and particularly so as a president nears the end of his term and seeks to cement his legacy, so let me say a few things that Mr. Obama surely knows but may be reluctant to put into words.

For Americans of all colors, the state of our union is not good, both economically and politically.

Officially, the U.S. economy has been in recovery since 2009, when our GDP stopped shrinking and started growing. But for the majority of working Americans it doesn’t feel like a recovery when wages are stagnant and a growing number of jobs are part-time, temporary or otherwise insecure.

It’s even worse for communities of color, the nation’s fastest growing groups. The racial wealth gap isn’t getting any better, and it persists even among those with a college degree. While many white families still feel like we’re still in a recession, for too many black and Latino families, it feels like a depression. The unemployment rate for African American men age 20 and up, for example, remains stuck at 9.9 percent, compared to 4.0 percent for whites in the same age bracket.

This, mind you, is after six years of a recovery that at some point must slow down. Economic forecasts are notoriously imperfect, but growing numbers of economists see a slowdown coming in the next year or two.

Meanwhile, the politics of racial resentment keep getting meaner, louder and more overt. With Donald Trump leading the way, appeals to xenophobia and prejudice have transformed from dog whistles to air-raid sirens. And while economic insecurity may explain part of the appeal of such tactics, it doesn’t seem to explain all of it. Pondering Trump’s appeal to white voters without a college degree, Eduardo Porter recently wrote in the New York Times,

Such voters are nostalgic for the country they lived in 50 years ago, when non-Hispanic whites made up more than 83 percent of the population. Today, their share has shrunk to 62 percent as demographic change has transformed the United States into a nation where others have a shot at political power.

Their fear is understandable. In general, the concerns of Hispanic and black American voters are often different from those of white voters. But the reaction of whites who are struggling economically raises the specter of an outright political war along racial and ethnic lines over the distribution of resources and opportunities.

These fears and resentments cause significant numbers of working class whites to vote against their own economic interests. As Greenlining Institute board co-chair George Dean put it to me recently, “Racism and bigotry are more important that economics — and for what?”

Asian Americans, often put on a media pedestal as a successful “model minority,” face a different problem. The model minority myth makes it easy to ignore shockingly high poverty rates of as high as 38 percent in some Southeast Asian immigrant communities.

There is a path forward. We can create a rising tide the does in fact lift all boats — for real, not the illusion peddled by so many post-Reagan Republicans who sold the snake oil that deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy would magically produce prosperity. Smart policies can lift wages, protect workers and use growth industries like the exploding clean-energy economy to channel investment and opportunities into communities where the recession still looks like a depression.

But this requires leadership. It requires those seeking the presidency or seats in Congress to ignore nearly all of the political advice they get from consultants and pollsters. Don’t pander to resentments. Don’t try to cobble together small groups of aggrieved voters into a narrow majority that can squeak you though the election at the cost of leaving the country increasingly fractured and ungovernable.

More than ever, we need those who seek to lead us to be bold and to think big. Sketch out a vision for an America that gains from its diversity, where success isn’t a zero-sum game in which your growth means my loss and vice versa, where anyone from any background can climb the ladder of opportunity and know the game isn’t rigged against them.

It’s possible, but only if our leaders have the vision and courage to give it a try.

Sentencing Reform is Only Half the Battle

San Francisco Chronicle
By Orson Aguilar

Ingrid Archie recently had been promoted at her job of six years when she was let go. The reason: Her employer had re-evaluated its hiring policies, laying off anyone with a criminal record, no matter how minor. Out of work, with no source of income and a baby who needed clothes, Archie — who as a young adult had been convicted of drug possession — felt she had no choice but to shoplift. She was arrested for petty theft, violating her probation, and was sentenced to spend three years in jail. There are countless more stories like Archie’s.

As a society, we imprison a staggering number of people: 2.3 million Americans, disproportionately black and Latino, are behind bars. Yet even after they are released, they’re imprisoned again by lack of work opportunity. Sixty percent of people leaving prison still can’t find work a year later.

Barred from working, individuals convicted of minor offenses once or twice are often left with very few ways to support themselves and their families. Millions of people are deeply affected by a broken system and desperately need lower barriers to economic opportunity.

Archie’s story concludes with a note of hope: After two years in prison, she successfully petitioned for release under Proposition 47, a California ballot initiative passed in 2014 that reclassified certain minor, nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors.

Sentencing reforms such as Proposition 47 are important, but they are not enough. If Archie and the nearly 1 in 3 Americans with a criminal record can’t find work after their release, they will likely end up back in a vicious cycle of incarceration and unemployment. Sentencing reforms, important as they are, can’t solve this problem by themselves.

More than 680,000 individuals were released from prison in 2011, and many more have been released since then. These people need work, so we need a bigger conversation: one that addresses both the pipeline to prison as well as how to best reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals into society.

This is particularly important for communities of color, which face incarceration rates many times higher than whites and thus face more barriers to work.

We need our state’s policymakers — from San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón to Gov. Jerry Brown — to lead this conversation. Their support for sentencing reform is not truly meaningful unless they support efforts to break the cycle of recidivism as well. They need to show that a person’s past doesn’t define them for a lifetime.

So today we’re calling on all state and local policymakers in California to commit to evaluating every piece of proposed legislation or regulation for unnecessary discrimination against formerly incarcerated individuals. Two years ago, then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder directed all parts of the federal Justice Department to conduct specific reviews of new regulations and policy guidance to “avoid imposing an unnecessary burden on individuals re-entering society.” California policymakers should do the same.

Research shows that being able to work and engage with society is critical to successful re-entry for individuals with a criminal record. Our leaders should do everything they can to make that happen.

Paris Climate Talks Should Look to California

Huffington Post
By Orson Aguilar

Leaders gathering in Paris to hash out an international agreement on fighting climate change should look to California for examples. My home state not only leads the way in attacking global warming, it’s doing it by keeping the focus on people, communities and equity for all.

California’s multi-pronged effort charges polluters for the climate- and lung-damaging garbage they put into our air, but that’s just the start. It’s what we do with the money raised that truly changes the game.

We know which communities get hit first and worst by air pollution and climate change: Communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. That didn’t happen by accident. For generations, communities of color were redlined and used as toxic dumping grounds for facilities like oil refineries and freeways that wealthier neighborhoods didn’t want in their back yards. It’s only fair that those communities receive the benefits of the growing clean-energy economy, from good jobs to healthier air.

This isn’t a dream, it’s real. Funds raised by charging polluters under California’s cap-and-trade program go into a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund that pays for projects to further clean the air and produce clean energy. California law requires that at least one quarter of those funds must go to projects that benefit the most polluted and economically struggling communities, as identified by a sophisticated tool created by the state Environmental Protection Agency. At least 10 percent must go to projects directly located within those communities.

Recently, Greenlining Institute Environmental Equity Director Alvaro Sanchezanalyzed 10 projects being funded under this program, and what he found was remarkable. In California’s heavily agricultural Central Valley, dollars raised from polluters are helping low-income families replace their old, gas-guzzling clunkers with clean, efficient hybrids or electric cars. Nearby, over 1,200 low-income families are receiving solar power systems that they otherwise could never afford to install. And in Los Angeles, two low-income neighborhoods will receive 1,120 trees, removing 1,986 tons of greenhouse gases from the air, improving air quality, enhancing long-neglected neighborhoods and reducing heat island effects.

Similar stories have begun to unfold all over California.

And up and down the state, people are being put to work making these projects happen – people like Denny Sysaknoi, who grew up in a rough neighborhood in Fresno and very nearly fell into a life of gangs, crime and violence. Now he’s able to support his infant son with a new career as a solar installer.

California’s decision to fight climate change head-on while keeping a focus on equity has helped fuel an economic boom. It’s no coincidence that in the latest federal employment stats, California led the nation in job growth. Over 368,000 Californians now work in clean economy jobs, and the number keeps growing every year. My state is proving that we don’t have to choose between protecting the planet and providing good jobs in thriving communities. If we lead with equity and ignore the false choices presented by the oil lobby, we can do both.

These smart, successful policies didn’t happen by magic. They exist because communities of color got organized and demanded them. Those voices often got left out of decision-making in the past — indeed, for too long the environmental movement has been plagued by a lack of racial, ethnic and gender diversity – but we’re seeing progress.

California has set an example for the world to follow, but diverse voices must be at the table to make sure the progress being created here becomes real for people all over the globe.

Presidential Candidates Must Address Racial Wealth Gap

The Californian
By Orson Aguilar

It’s encouraging to see presidential candidates of both parties talking about economic inequality, but they’re missing something important. To fix America’s economy, they must address the huge economic disparities between racial and ethnic groups.

For every dollar of wealth a white family has, the median Asian family has about 81 cents, the median Latino family has 7 cents and the median black family has less than 6 cents. And that comparatively strong overall figure for Asian-Americans masks pockets of severe poverty, particularly among Southeast Asian immigrant communities.

These gaps are not coincidental. They stem from policies such as redlining (officially supported by the U.S. government in the past), environmental racism and disinvestment that suppressed wealth and property values in communities of color. The racial wealth gap didn’t happen accidentally and won’t be fixed without a conscious, determined effort, but so far the candidates have shown little understanding.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, for example, has made the “gap between the very rich and everyone else” a centerpiece of his campaign. Yet his website page addressing income and wealth inequality doesn’t even mention the racial wealth gap. His proposed solutions, from raising the minimum wage to free public higher education, can help, but don’t address the specific issues of disinvestment in communities of color and the myriad racially skewed policies that stifle entire communities.

Similarly, Hillary Clinton’s economic proposals include lots of language about supporting working people and promoting small business and job training, but fail to address the specific issues underlying the racial wealth gap.

Republican candidates are also discussing economic disparities. Jeb Bush has talked about an “opportunity gap,” and Donald Trump takes an occasional break from bashing immigrants to call the special tax breaks for hedge fund managers “a total and complete joke.” But they’ve addressed the underlying racial chasm even less than the Democrats, who at least mention it now and then.

We need answers from our leaders. For example, The New York Times recently reported that redlining, theoretically banned decades ago, is back, and keeping African-Americans from getting mortgages. Candidates should be asked what they will do to stop this, and what their plan is for enforcing and strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act to ensure that banks don’t neglect low-income communities.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform act created Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion in the federal agencies that regulate banking. In doing this, Congress sought to ensure that the financial system respects the needs of the communities of color that were exploited during the bubble. Candidates should be asked their proposals to make certain the promise of these offices is fulfilled.

The racial wealth gap ultimately hurts our whole economy. Presidential candidates from all parties should say clearly what they will do about it.

Another View: Oil Industry Doesn’t Speak for Low-Income Californians

Californians aren’t buying the notion that the oil industry cares about low-income communities most impacted by pollution and poverty. (Collaboration needed, not harsh fuel limits”; Viewpoints, Oct. 4). Their deceitful campaign to weaken Senate Bill 350, the state’s newest, historic clean energy law, is more than enough evidence that the only thing the oil industry cares about is its bottom line.

The Western States Petroleum Association waged an unprecedented, no-expenses-spared effort to remove the provision in SB 350 to cut petroleum use. When all the lobbying reports are in, I suspect we will see record spending this year by those threatened by a clean energy future.

The petroleum association’s leader claims, “The voice of the people was heard.” Yet a recent Latino Decisions poll found 81 percent of Latinos in California strongly supported the exact goal the oil industry killed. There is nothing arbitrary about wanting to reduce our dependence on petroleum.

Fortunately, many lawmakers were not swayed by the oil industry’s familiar scare tactics and persevered to ensure that the law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday moves our state forward toward meaningful action on clean energy and climate change. While the petroleum association and its oil company members were successful in removing the petroleum-reduction component of SB 350, the final bill is a huge achievement for California and a model for other states and nations.

If you want to see how climate leadership is uplifting the most disadvantaged Californians, look no further than The Greenlining Institute’s new report profiling the neighborhood-level climate investments made possible by our state’s signature climate change law, Assembly Bill 32.

Through AB 32, California has generated close to $3 billion for projects that cut carbon pollution, and each year at least 25 percent of funds go to the most polluted parts of the state. These climate investments are making a difference. Take Roy Rivera of Sacramento, who is disabled and lives on a fixed income. He will save more than $800 this year from new solar panels he received at no cost. Or the Mendoza family of Stockton, who exchanged an inefficient 1984 Ford Ranger and got rebates to help them afford a Prius plug-in hybrid.

If the Western States Petroleum Association had its way, we would cease these investments in disadvantaged communities across the state. That would be reckless.

The next time the oil industry seeks “collaboration,” it should stop lecturing us and start listening to Californians, who support cutting poverty and pollution by any means necessary.

A Decade After Katrina, Can Philanthropy Make Black Lives Matter?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy
By Nat Chioke Williams

On Saturday, people from around the world will commemorate the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Although many people will tout the city’s recovery, few people in black working-class neighborhoods will be celebrating. After all, they have been mostly left behind.

But that is hardly the only poignant and painful reminder of the inequities facing blacks in America and how far the nation still must go to end them.

On August 4, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the crowning achievement of the civil-rights movement, which was recently gutted by the Supreme Court.

Five days later, we recognized the one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., an attack that launched what is commonly known as the Black Lives Matter movement — a movement to assert the sanctity of black life, even as it is fueled by a wave of black deaths at the hands of police.

But the question for the country — and especially for all of us in philanthropy — is not, Do black lives matter?, but rather, How can we make black lives matter and provide the best opportunities for the black community to thrive? And can philanthropy help ensure we don’t squander the advances that the broader movement has made in the past year?

The answer to this question is complex, but it ultimately boils down to power.

To make black lives matter more, philanthropy needs to do all it can to ensure that the black community builds the social, institutional, and political power it needs to directly challenge and dismantle the policies and systems that enable structural racism.

The success to date of the Black Lives Matter movement is most visible in the ways it has changed how the public thinks about race, racism, and policing.

It has used social media, traditional media, strategic communications, street protests, and other activities to become part of the public conversation — and it has become a strong counter to those who deny that racism is embedded in the policies and structures of our society. There now exists a unique opportunity to win policy changes to help ensure greater police accountability and to examine and address racial discrimination across many aspects of black life.

But this movement is at risk if it doesn’t get the money it needs to build institutions that can capitalize on this social power. For far too many decades, black-led social-change organizations have received too little in donations to grow into the strong influencers on the American way life that they must be.

Research from the Greenlining Institute has found that minority-led organizations get less money from foundations than white-led organizations. And anecdotal evidence suggests that this pattern is as bad, if not worse, for social-change organizations led by blacks.

Much of the work being done to propel Black Lives Matter forward has been carried out by newly created groups with limited funds and borrowed or volunteer staff, as well as older black-led social-justice groups that are already strapped for money. Philanthropy can help make the most of this moment by ensuring that black-led social-change groups are well supported.

Some grant makers, like the North Star Fund, the Liberty Hill Fund, Resource Generation, and others, have explicitly dedicated resources to support black-led grass-roots groups organizing to push for greater police accountability and other changes that will reduce violence and improve safety. Similarly, the Hill-Snowdon Foundation recently launched the Making Black Lives Matter Initiative, a three-year project that seeks to build the kind of long-term institutional and political power that the black community needs to achieve real racial justice.
Our focus on black-led organizing groups is an essential piece of building the organizations, leaders, and activists who will not just do the work today, but will lead future efforts to push for changes that will allow all black Americans to thrive.

We are dedicating $900,000 in new funds over the next three years for grants to support black-led organizing, as well as leadership development for black organizers and in-person meetings at which black social-change leaders can strategize on next steps.

This investment is significant for our foundation and represents almost a one-percent increase in our payout for 2015 and a 20-percent increase in our grants budget over the next three years. Hill-Snowdon’s trustees believe this opportunity demonstrates exactly why foundations have endowments: so they can seize on historic moments like this.

But it’s not enough for each foundation to demonstrate the courage to spend more. We must also join forces with other philanthropies to better coordinate and align our grant making for racial justice for the black community

That’s why we are working with the Association of Black Foundation Executives to create a network of grant makers to coordinate our grant-making efforts and maximize our impact on a range of racial justice issues affecting blacks. We invite our colleagues to join us.

Philanthropy needs to do more to make black lives matter in this historic moment. This includes:

Understanding and acknowledging how structural racism limits the possibilities of those in the black community and defines many of the social, institutional, political, economic, and cultural norms of American society. This understanding will make it clear why it’s imperative to focus on changing structures — and especially to focus on ways of ensuring that blacks gain the power they need to push for substantive and lasting change.
Making a commitment to make black lives matter by adopting a racial-equity lens for grant making in black communities. Grant makers should pay attention to race while analyzing programs, seeking solutions, and defining success.
Ending the funding inequities for black-led groups, especially black-led social-change and racial-justice organizations. Some of the imbalance in grant making may stem from unconscious bias. Imbalance also may result from a Catch-22 situation: Foundations want to support high-performing organizations, but that is a tough standard to meet when black-led nonprofits have received just crumbs from the grant-making table.
The nation is at a pivotal crossroads in its centuries-long struggle to confront and eradicate structural racism. The shocking events and subsequent organizing in the past year have helped lift up the veil to expose the pernicious and persistent impact of structural racism. Philanthropy’s challenge is to not look away, but to look deeper, and to act with courage and conviction. We must cultivate a commitment to making black lives matter, so that the black community and, indeed, the entire nation can thrive.

Can We Talk? Big Business and the Need for Transparency

The Huffington Post
By Preeti Vissa

Knowledge, as they say, is power. But when information is a one-way street, even the smartest minds have trouble making progress.

I was reminded of this the other day when I heard of the challenges faced by two members of The Greenlining Institute’s Leadership Academy, which trains young people of color in policy and advocacy. Two young people in our Summer Associate program have been finding that getting information from corporate America can be much harder than figuring out what to do with the information once you get it.

Jubek Yongo-Bure has been looking – or at least trying to look – at the diversity efforts of Silicon Valley tech companies. Many of these firms refused to release any meaningful information on the diversity of their staff and management until last year, when a number of major firms like Google acknowledged how few of their employees – particularly in high-level positions — were women, Latino or African American.

Back then a number of execs pledged greater efforts at diversity, so we asked Jubek to look into what they were actually doing. As an organization with some experience promoting diversity in a variety of settings, we thought a dialogue with major companies wrestling with these issues could be valuable for all. So Jubek wrote to 11 prominent companies working in various aspects of the tech world.

Unfortunately, Jubek has run into a wall of silence from most companies, getting substantive responses from only three. From the others, including Google, she mainly got polite brush-offs. One of those companies did host the whole group of Summer Associates at a sort of meet-and-greet, but when asked about what they’re doing to recruit diverse candidates, a company rep said, “They should just apply.” No one was willing to engage about what, if anything, they were actually doing to make diverse applicants believe they would be welcomed and that applying wouldn’t be a waste of time.

Meanwhile, Kerry Sakimoto has been looking into community benefit practices of nonprofit hospitals in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Nonprofit hospitals include some of America’s largest hospital systems, companies that would easily make the Fortune 500 if they were organized as for-profit businesses. These hospitals make a bargain with the public: In exchange for the billions of dollars in tax breaks they get each year by being allowed to organize as nonprofits, they’re supposed to provide “community benefit” by providing care for the poor and uninsured and helping communities stay healthy.

Unfortunately, in the real world it’s not always clear where those community benefit dollars go and what good they do – in other words, whether these hospitals are keeping their half of the bargain. Last year, for example, our health team looked at San Francisco hospitals and found that the available information raised more questions than it answered.

Kerry looked at seven major nonprofit hospitals serving the Valley – a major agricultural region plagued by high levels of poverty, the sort of region where nonprofit hospitals could play a critical role in promoting community health. For two of the seven, not enough information was available to determine how much of the hospital’s income was spent on community benefit. For others, critical pieces of the puzzle were missing – for example, how much spending was directed at the broad community (e.g. antismoking campaigns) and how much, if any, was directed specifically toward addressing the needs of vulnerable populations, such as the poor, elderly, disabled, communities of color and those who speak little English.

When Kerry followed up, a few hospitals filled in some missing details while others just gave him the runaround. Statewide, the hospital industry has fought tooth and nail against legislation to improve transparency and promote community involvement in the community benefit activities that are supposed to earn these institutions their enormous tax breaks.

These summer projects are supposed to be learning experiences, and I have no doubt that both Kerry and Jubek did learn. But I can’t help but feel a bit sad that some of what they learned is how large corporations that play hugely important roles in our communities are happy to put out generalities about their good corporate citizenship, but put up walls when asked for specifics.

Regulators Should Hold CIT Bank Accountable for Strong CRA Plan

American Banker
by Paulina Gonzalez and Orson Aguilar

Last week, federal banking regulators gave CIT Group permission to acquire OneWest Bank — thereby approving the first bank merger to create a systemically important financial institution. But their approval was contingent upon a set of conditions that suggest the government is placing a renewed focus on the Community Reinvestment Act.

Read more on American Banker.